Wizards keep Martell Webster, but pay more than many expected


The Wizards re-signed Webster to a four-year deal worth the full mid-level exception, but did they overreact to a career year?

The Washington Wizards completed a busy first two days of the 2013 NBA free agency period by coming to terms with Martell Webster on a four-year, $22 million contract, the full value of the mid-level exception. The final year is partially guaranteed, but it's not clear for how much.

This is probably a bit of an overpay for Webster, though only because of Webster's past history of injuries and underwhelming play. Based just off this past year, Webster is worth the money.

A free-agent flyer by Ernie Grunfeld last summer, Webster emerged as the team's starting small forward, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and posting a sparkling 60.1 true shooting percentage. He held his own defensively, didn't venture too far out of his role and provided the Wizards with much-needed floor spacing and leadership.

Webster was a particularly good fit with franchise cornerstones John Wall and Bradley Beal, which probably explains why the Wizards rushed to re-sign him. The trio played 303 minutes together this season, and the Wizards had an efficiency differential of plus-18.7 during those minutes, scoring 110.6 points per 100 possessions and giving up just 91.9, according to NBA.com's media-only stats page. Injuries prevented the three from getting on the court together much this year, otherwise the Wizards probably would have been a much better team. Webster's spot-up shooting, particularly from the corners -- he shot 58.4 percent from the right corner and 42.1 percent from the right -- is especially valuable given Wall's penetrating ability and sub-par perimeter shot.

But the Wizards aren't paying for last year; they're paying for the next four. Given that, it's fair to wonder if Webster can duplicate his 2012-13 performance. He has never been able to consistently nail down a role for multiple years at a time, and he has a checkered injury history. Webster broke his foot as a rookie, then underwent two back surgeries while a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He played in 76 games this past season, but struggled with a hernia injury in April that required maintenance surgery once the season ended.

It's also going to be interesting to see how Webster fits in now that the Wizards have Otto Porter in the picture. Porter may not be ready to start right away, but the small forward position is clearly earmarked for him in the future. Webster can still be a valuable reserve that swings between the two wing positions, but that means he'll spend less time playing with Wall and Beal in that dynamite lineup. The Wizards also still have Trevor Ariza under contract for one more year, though he could be traded and probably won't be around past this season.

All in all, it's understandable why the Wizards valued Webster, but given his past history, surrendering the full mid-level exception on the second day of free agency might have been a little aggressive.


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